On the one hand, workplace wellness programs are openly endorsed by the Affordable Care Act. On the other, how they’re constructed and implemented is critical in determining any potential benefit or legal risk.
According to Kate Ulrich Saracene, Partner, Nixon Peabody’s Health and Welfare Employee Benefits practice, “There are at least 10 different Federal laws and numerous state laws that employers need to be aware of relative to any company sponsored “wellness program.”
Released earlier this year, Fidelity Investment’s fifth annual wellness survey shows just how popular workplace wellness programs have become.
- 95% of companies plan to offer some kind of health improvement program for their employees
- Corporate employers plan to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness-based incentives this year
- Companies offering incentives to participate in these initiatives has increased from 57% in 2009 to 74% in 2014
- 93% of companies indicated they plan to expand or maintain funding for their program over the next 3-5 years
- 44% of companies said they plan to maintain or increase their investment in wellness programs, even if their company were to move away from direct involvement in employer-sponsored health coverage
But it’s a potentially toxic combination that’s ripe for abuse. Employers are eager to control exploding healthcare costs, while vendors are eager to sell programs claiming big ROI with little scientific evidence and no legal review. What could possibly go wrong? And is any of this really in the interest of the employee?